Anybody who has lived in Flagstaff for a while may well agree: driving on Milton Road during rush hour at the height of tourist season can be frustrating. The same may hold true on Highway 180 from Baderville into town during a holiday weekend in the winter when there is snow.
The concerns have been documented and studied and city leadership is well aware of the crowded roadways.
The Arizona Department of Transportation, together with the City of Flagstaff, Coconino County, Northern Arizona University and the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Transportation Authority, among others, are committed to researching the traffic issues on the Milton Road and U.S. Highway 180 corridors and come up with a 20-year plan, with opportunity for public input.
The intent of such master planning is to make proposed solutions a reality.
During the Dec. 5, Flagstaff City Council meeting, ADOT Project Manager Dan Gabiou and Project Consultant Kevin Kugler briefed councilmembers on the scope of the master plans and fielded questions.
The goals for the master plans for the two corridors are similar: address the congestion; identify a long-term vision; seek public and stakeholder input on a variety of alternatives (like widening Milton as an example); prioritize and design projects; and finally, when funding sources have been identified, implement those projects.
“We don’t want this to be just another study on a shelf as some people complain about sometimes because we can’t identify funding,” Gabiou told the Council. “We do want to identify how we are going to implement these, and we want something to come to fruition in the next 20 years, to the best of our ability.”
The area of study will include Milton Road from Forest Meadows on the south side of the city to Beaver Street. The U.S. 180 corridor includes Humphreys Street at the Route 66 junction to U.S. 180 all the way out to Crowley Pit.
Kugler added that during each phase of development for the plans, public input will be sought in open houses on a “universe of alternatives” for the corridors, keeping in mind the character, safety needs and congestion associated with each. Alternatives include expanding roads, discovering alternative routes and making spot changes to parts of the corridors. The alternatives will then be evaluated and selected based on their potential for implementation.
“It’s a tough nut to crack, quite frankly,” Kugler said. “And I think we all know that.”
During the discussion period, several councilmembers voiced skepticism that the master plans will be any different than numerous other studies in the past.
Councilmember Scott Overton said of the Milton corridor, “I’ve kind of come to the conclusion that the financial realities of lane capacity and the structure itself changing are probably pretty unlikely, whether it’s property acquisition or just the sheer amount of cars you would have to make it perform better, you know, that cost benefit is probably not going to be there.”
Overton wanted to know if the plans will lead to some kind of financial certainty to make alternatives possible.
Vice Mayor Jamie Whelan recalled the wealth of studies already out there. “What do you bring to this?” she asked. She noted that solutions have been suggested and wondered if ADOT holds the key to implementation.
“The community wants a fix to Milton. Period,” said Mayor Coral Evans. “My hope is that we have a document we can implement.”
The master plans are anticipated to be completed by December 2018. Websites for the master plans located at azdot.gov/planning/transportation-studies/milton-road-corridor-master-plan
By Larry Hendricks, FBN